Eleven Brazilian soldiers were arrested after allegedly turning over three shantytown residents to a drug gang that killed them and left their bodies in a garbage dump, police said Monday.
The killings touched off anti-military protests on Sunday and Monday in the Providencia shantytown, with residents burning city buses and throwing rocks at soldiers.
Rio state Gov. Sergio Cabral denounced the soldiers as criminals, local news media reported.
While the majority of the population supports an increased army presence in Rio de Janeiro’s more than 600 poor, violent shantytowns, both military leaders and politicians have warned that soldiers are not trained to do police work.
“The episode clearly demonstrates that the armed forces should not be involved in ... public security in the city,” the Brazilian Bar Association said in a statement issued Monday.
The shantytowns traditionally have been controlled by heavily armed drug gangs and more recently by paramilitary militias. Police rarely enter the shantytowns.
The army has been in Providencia, nominally controlled by the Red Command drug gang, for several weeks to protect federal workers who are building homes and trying to create jobs.
The soldiers detained the three Providencia residents, ages 17, 19 and 24, on Sunday on charges of disrespecting authority, police Inspector Ricardo Dominguez said. The men allegedly cursed at the soldiers for trying to search them.
Officials at the army’s operation center decided to release the men, but the soldiers “misunderstood the order and released them in a shantytown belonging to a rival gang,” Dominguez said.
The men’s bullet-riddled bodies were discovered at a garbage dump on Sunday.